Today LucasArts and BioWare revealed one of the industry’s worst kept secrets ever... Star Wars: The Old Republic
Some would probably say, "it’s about time" while others may smirk and whisper a well-deserved "no kidding." But no matter what, the cat is out of the bag with the official announcement of Star Wars: The Old Republic, a joint MMOG venture between LucasArts and famed developer BioWare. Set in the Knights of the Old Republic timeframe, the upcoming massively multiplayer online PC game promises "immersive storytelling, dynamic combat and intelligent companion characters." Can someone say w00t?
But why choose the KOTOR setting? "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is the most critically acclaimed Star Wars game in LucasArts history and a preeminent example of our company’s interactive storytelling heritage,” said Darrell Rodriguez, President of LucasArts. “For a long time, we’ve wanted to return to the franchise in a grand way, and we felt that the best setting for it was an online world that would allow millions of people to participate in the experience together. We knew that the developer capable of working with us to deliver an engrossing story with a fully-realized online world was BioWare.”
Taking place thousands of years before Anakin Skywalker becomes the villainous Darth Vader and 300 years after the latest KOTOR game, players will experience the Star Wars universe when the war raging between the Sith Empire and the Old Republic divides the entire galaxy. Although players can chose to play Sith or Jedi, LucasArts says that other meaningful, classic classes will be available as well. Players will even befriend NPCs along their journey, and will either fight alongside the player or turn against them, depending on the player’s actions. Because the Old Republic is a massively multiplayer game, players will be able to team up with other gamers to "battle enemies and overcome incredible challenges using dynamic Star Wars combat."
“Traditionally, massively multiplayer online games have been about three basic gameplay pillars - combat, exploration and character progression,” said Dr. Ray Muzyka, Co-Founder and General Manager/CEO of BioWare and General Manager/Vice President of Electronic Arts Inc., “In Star Wars: The Old Republic, we’re fusing BioWare’s heritage of critically-acclaimed storytelling with the amazing pedigree of Lucasfilm and LucasArts, and adding a brand-new fourth pillar to the equation – story. At the same time, we will still deliver all the fun features and activities that fans have come to expect in a triple-A massively multiplayer online game. To top it all off, Star Wars: The Old Republic is set in a very exciting, dynamic period in the Star Wars universe.”
Currently LucasArts and BioWare have not announced a release date for the MMOG, however LucasArts’ other MMOG Star Wars Galaxies remains afloat. Launched in 2003, over one million units of Star Wars Galaxies have been sold, and currently three expansion packs are available as well. In 2005 LucasArts and SOE implemented the New Game Enhancements, thus causing a negative backlash from its subscribers. Many reports have claimed that subscription rates are down, and online headcounts have dipped below 11,000 at one time.
It will be interesting to see how Star Wars: The Old Republic will affect Star Wars Galaxies: will current subscribers check out the new game and return, or will subscription rates drop to the point where SOE decides to shut down the servers. Hopefully both MMOGs can coexist however highly unlikely given BioWare’s previous history with the Star Wars universe.
LucasArts claims that more details will be revealed at a later date. In the meantime, PC.IGN has a hands-on preview with The Old Republic, stemming from their visit to BioWare’s Austin office.